Gennaro Contaldo was Jamie Oliver's first boss when he moved to London and for the last 20 years has been his mentor, close friend and colleague. A legend in his own right, Gennaro is a TV star, chef, restaurateur, Jamie's Food Tube favourite and the man credited with teaching Jamie how to cook authentic Italian food. Now, Gennaro tells us how proud he is of Jamie, 20 years later, about his new cookbook The Pasta Book, his tips for keeping pasta healthy and the secret to authentic home-made pesto.
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Gennaro Contaldo was Jamie Oliver's first boss when he moved to London and has been his mentor since
What's it like seeing all Jamie Oliver has achieved 20 years after he first came under your wing?
"I am so proud of what Jamie has achieved since he first came to me for a job as a pastry chef. Even then he always wanted to learn more and more and it was because of his enthusiasm that I took him under my wing.
"I also really liked him and we have been good friends ever since. I think it's amazing what he has done in this relatively short time and all the time and effort he puts into his projects to help people – Fifteen Foundation, school meals, Ministry of Food, Food Revolution – he is a great inspiration to many. He used to learn from me, now I learn from him," says the Italian maestro.
What's it like working with Essex-born chef?
"Pure joy! He is committed and dedicated to his work and is always full of exciting new ideas.
"I can show him a recipe and I love the way he adds his own twists to it. He is also good fun to work with and always so lovely and kind."
Pasta is a staple mid-week meal in most households and The Pasta Book will help to re-vamp your repertoire. It's full of delicious, seasonal recipes, as well as Gennaro's take on classic favourites such as carbonara, bolognese and meatballs.
What are Gennaro's tips for keeping pasta dishes healthy and light?
"Pasta sauces don't have to be stodgy; you can make them as light and fresh as you like. Using fresh, seasonal produce is the key.
"During spring for example, lightly sautéed fresh broad beans and peas with a little onion combine really well with pasta. In autumn, wild mushrooms with some garlic and chilli is equally light and delicious. When you're in a hurry my quick, simple tomato sauce or my store cupboard favourite 'aglio, olio e peperoncino' (garlic, oil and chilli pepper - called Midnight Spaghettata in the new cookbook) to dress some freshly cooked spaghetti is light, delicate and healthy."
The Pasta Book by Gennaro Contaldo is published by Penguin Random House in Jamie Oliver’s Food Tube Books series, £7.99.